Let us juxtapose what's going on right now on the bluelines of Pennsylvania.
In Philadelphia, the Flyers are so desperate for a puck-moving defenceman -- and so determined not to come out of this offseason without one -- that they've traded for the rights to a 35-year-old Mark Streit and are only a buyout (or two) away from signing him to a guaranteed contract worth $21 million over the next four seasons. That's a cap hit of $5.25 million, and one they won't be able to buy their way out of due to Streit's age. But they're willing to do it because they're desperate for someone with Streit's skillset.
Meanwhile, in Pittsburgh, General Manager Ray Shero has reportedly decided he's willing to pay Kris Letang, 26, and fresh off his first Norris nomination, no more than $6 million per year -- less than a million more than Streit is in line to receive. What's more, because Letang can probably get more than that and Shero's well aware, the Penguins' GM is strongly considering trading him instead.
According to Rob Rossi, while Shero's been aggressive on his extensions so far this season, re-upping his entire coaching staff, inking Evgeni Malkin to a huge new deal, and even beginning talks with winger Pascal Dupuis, Letang's agent has yet to field a call from the Pittsburgh GM. From TribLive:
That is no accident.
Shero is fairly confident Letang has become a must-move player.
That is true because Letang is not the consensus best defenseman on the Penguins, at least in the eyes of management and coaches.
That is true because the Penguins are deepest on defense among top prospects, including a couple of first-round picks from last summer (Derrick Pouliot and Olli Maatta).
It would be absolutely stunning to watch one Pennsylvania team sign Mark Streit to that contract while the other is deeming Kris Letang expendable.
There's some sense in it from Shero's end, however.
Rossi points out that, last week, Shero referred to Malkin and Crosby as “franchise players” while calling Letang a “very good defenseman.” If he doesn't view Letang as a franchise blueliner, and you could make the argument that Letang's not there defensively, it would be defensible to move Letang to a team that disagrees. After all, you'd get a small fortune for him.
Still, it almost seems unbelievable, but if Ray Shero has proven anything in the last year or so, it's that he's not afraid to make big moves like this. Leading up to the postseason, he acquired Jarome Iginla, Brendan Morrow and Douglas Murray. Sure, that trio of moves proved to be the hockey equivalent of swapping your tires for caterpillar tracks, making you tougher, but slower, but still -- it showed initiative.
And last year at the draft, when Shero couldn't get Jordan Staal under contract, he didn't hesitate to make the blockbuster of the draft, sending Staal to Carolina for a package centred around Brandon Sutter.
Could Shero and the Penguins be the talk of this year's draft yet again?
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